The movement against the war is spiralling. Even the mainstream media feels forced to reflect the growing opposition to Bush and Blair. Meetings and protests took place in cities and towns across Britain last week. All were focused on raising the anti-war banner locally, and mobilising single-mindedly for the mass national anti-war demonstration in London a week on Sunday.
Over 450 people packed an anti-war meeting in Oxford on Thursday. The following evening another 450 people turned up to a meeting in Bristol, and 480 to one in Leeds.
Longstanding activists in Paisley, Scotland, describe a 100-strong anti-war meeting last Tuesday as 'the biggest meeting for many, many years' in the town. There were also a string of demonstrations. Over 2,500 people, the big majority students, protested outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday.
On Saturday over 2,000 people marched in Manchester, 600 in Newcastle, 500 in Leeds, 500 in Nottingham and 150 in Kirkaldy, Scotland. Council worker Richard Searle says of the Manchester demonstration, 'There was a fantastic spirit. There were young and old, black and white, and many people who had never been on a march before.
'It's all out now for 18 November. We want to send a huge contingent from Manchester to the London demonstration.'
White collar rail union TSSA voted to oppose the war at its national executive meeting last week.
All three rail unions-TSSA, RMT and ASLEF-now oppose the war. Mick Rix, general secretary of ASLEF, says, 'What is happening in Afghanistan is a humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of voices need to be raised throughout the world to demand an immediate halt to bombing and other military actions.
'I hope 18 November will be the biggest peace demonstration in Britain for generations. And I would urge everyone to be there.' Ricky Tuke, a rail worker in Brighton, explains how Brighton Rail Workers Against the War has been set up:
'The week before last, four of us got together. Between us we were able to identify at least 20 rail workers who would be up for building a workplace anti-war group. We have got people involved in building the local and national demos, and in selling badges. The possibility exists to build a really big, vibrant group, as I'm sure is the case in many workplaces.'
The stakes are high
Everyone can help build the 18 November demonstration. The last anti-war march was 50,000-strong and, according to the Guardian, shocked government ministers. The demonstration a week on Sunday can galvanise opposition to the war and help create a political crisis for Tony Blair.
A deep political crisis that polarises society can force Britain out of the war.
- Get to the demonstration yourself. Get booked onto transport.
- Tell everyone you know about the protest and encourage them to come along.
- Set up an anti-war group. One or two people can draw many others around them.
- Contact others in your area to book transport. Produce tickets and get them sold. Some people will not be able to get to London but will give money to fund transport.
- Union branches can do the same. The anti-war group in Scarborough has received donations of £50 from the local TGWU branch and £100 from UNISON.
- Get leaflets and posters around as many places as possible. Everyone is pushed for time, so why not give leaflets to people when you drop the children off at school, go shopping or have a break at work?
- The main limit on the size of the demonstration is the numbers who know about it. Every leaflet and poster will make a difference, especially in London, where street stalls and mass leafleting are planned in the run-up to the march.
- Ask everyone for their ideas for building the demonstration and the anti-war movement. Everyone has something to contribute.
How to fill more coaches
Activists are taking the success of big citywide rallies into colleges, workplaces and local areas. Some 130 people attended a teach-in at Swansea University last week, and 42 of them bought tickets for coaches to the 18 November demonstration.
'There is huge opposition to the war,' says Christine Lewis, a student at the University of Central England in Birmingham. 'But we have to show it. That means getting people on the march a week on Sunday. We had an anti-war organising meeting of 50 people. We divided into five action groups, each one with a target of filling a coach. That means each person aiming to sell five tickets. When you put it like that, everyone can see the possibility of achieving it, because everyone knows people who are against the war. We have had anti-war activities every day at college. We've done this even though the university has thrown up obstacle after obstacle.'
Over 100 students at the London School of Economics attended a fundraiser for the Stop the War Coalition, and there is a week of action at the college against the war. A 100-strong teach-in at the University of Liverpool on globalisation also saw opposition to the war.
East London last week had a flavour of how localised anti-war activities can feed into the mass demonstration.
On just one evening 30 health workers formed an anti-war group, 20 people from two housing estates met to form an anti-war group, 40 people did the same in Barking, and 20 in Ilford.
Eight people from the Barking meeting did a stall in the shopping centre two days later and signed up 60 people to the campaign. The health workers' meeting drew GPs, student nurses, and workers from three hospitals and community health teams.
Jim Fagan, a branch secretary of the UNISON union, organised the meeting and said, 'We can confidently set about getting at least 300 health workers from the area onto the big demonstration.' Similar meetings of health workers in Sheffield and Manchester have booked transport for the demonstration, and are mobilising for it.
Eight health workers met at Kings Hospital in London two weeks ago. Last week 40 turned up. Staff at Manchester University held a 75-strong meeting last week and agreed to build the London demonstration.
Some 28 postal workers in Cardiff have signed up to go on the march. Meetings in local areas are also spreading the anti-war message. Saturday saw a vibrant 200-strong meeting in Southall, west London, uniting white and Asian people-Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus-against the war. In Scarborough in Yorkshire 55 people attended a vigil on Friday of last week following a recent 60-strong meeting.
There are many, many ways people can be active against this war. And all those activities are driving for the biggest possible turnout a week on Sunday.